Book Reviews Paul

Review: Basics For Believers: An Exposition of Philippians

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Basics For Believers, Philippians

Can an ivory-tower academic really write a basic commentary on Philippians for the general population of believers? Yes, he cane (and in fact, he’s not so “ivory-tower” as you might think, if you’ve ever thought that).

It’s not that Philippians is a basic book for Christian’s to start with before they can move on to harder, meatier books of God’s Word. But Philippians shows that the Gospel and its truths are very basic to learn, yet very difficult to put into practice. Why? Because of our own self-centeredness. We want to be the center, but we have to make room for others, including the One of most importance, Jesus Christ Himself!

Basic Truths of Philippians

Carson goes through many of these basic truths:

  • Putting the Gospel first
    • In your prayer life
    • In your fellowship with believers
    • In your aspirations and goals
    • In your self-denial
    • Adopt the Son’s sacrificial death as your outlook
    • Pass the Gospel truths that we have learned on to others
    • Emulate worthy Christian leaders
    • And characteristics/who not to emulate
    • Never give up the Christian walk

And Chapter 4 has a slew of application for the reader: Resolve to pursue like-mindedness with other believers … to rejoice in the Lord  to be known for gentleness  not to be anxious about anything, but learn instead to pray  to think holy thoughts  to learn the secret of contentment  to grow in the grace of Christian gratitude and courtesy

Sounds easy? Not when you’re a self-centered wretch in needs of God’s daily new graces and sanctification. And I’m speaking to myself! I’m sure you’re not like me at all (thank goodness).

The Chocolate Milk

Compared to other commentaries on Philippians, Carson’s is not overly technical, has no Greek at all (from what I can remember), and is very applicable to the believer. His tone s very warm and caring. This is more of a preacher/Bible study commentary. The members of the church are more likely to read a commentary like this rather than one like Moises or Fee. There’s nothing wrong with those commentaries. In fact, they’re some of the best on Philippians!

But most church goers are not going to want to delve into parsing Greek terms, or differentiating between the correct doctrines of hypostatic union and kenosis vs. Jesus emptying Himself of divine attributes. This is a valuable resource to the preacher/teacher for Carson focuses on application all the way, yet pulls it from the text. The application always comes from the text. Carson never tries to fit it in there.

Carson is very relatable in this book. He doesn’t merely own a lot of knowledge, but he has a lot of heart to back it up. He cares about the body of Christ. He cares about their spiritual walk and growth in Christ. He wants them to have a true, living relationship with God; to be able to sit quietly in prayer to Him and know that He listens and cares and loves, and then to turn around and take that affection received and give it to others. He wants to see that the church is living up to, enduring, and persevering in the Christian walk. What do you do when you have anxieties and worries? Pray to God. What do you need when you are down and out? Relationships: a true relationship with Jesus Himself and with other Christians to be encouraged by them and to give them encouragement in their struggles. The more you see “He cares for you” [1 Pet. 5:5-7], the more you will care for your own brothers and sisters in Christ. Growing in the grace of Jesus, Christian gratitude, and Christian courtesy will “strengthen your own discipleship and edify your brothers and sisters in Christ, [and] you will be multiplying the resolution of the church never to give up the Christian walk” (Carson, Kindle Locations 1703-1704).

The Spoiled Milk

This book might not be as “basic” as one might think. Perhaps the title is misleading. It’s more so a basic commentary on Philippians. “Basic” believers may not be as open to this book as would be those who are more educated in the fields of philosophical pluralism, Hebrew-to-Greek-to-English translations, and theological discussions of “propitiation vs. expiation.” Yet with careful reading, the pastor/reader would be able to use what Carson says and break it down even more for the church body. Philippians contains basic truths relevant to all believers. Carson does do a good job showing that in his book, but I think that some readers will be put off by some of the subjects and areas covered in his book.


Yepp. Carson covers the basics without being basic. This can be a good or bad thing. Maybe this book will be basic for you. If it is, there will still be plenty for you to learn and talk about. Maybe this book will be difficult and not-so-basic. If so, I hope you’ll stick with it and try to stretch your mind. To be honest, I enjoyed this more than Chandler’s To Live Is Christ. I like Chandler (I was able to see him at a conference up in Scotland), but as an author and expositor, Carson’s book trumps in clarity, application, and overall enjoyment. I was never bored in this book. Every section dealt with the text and me. How does this affect my Christian walk? How will I better die to myself? Carson doesn’t twist Scripture to apply it to our lives in certain ways. There is too much application in the Bible to cause us to need to go further and twist for more. This is a very good book. Give it a shot (it may still be cheap for Kindle on amazon?)


  • Paperback: 124 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (April 1, 1996)
  • Reading Level: High school on up

Buy it on Amazon!

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